Apple’s history of announcing new versions of iOS and releasing Betas for new versions suggest a fall or October for iOS 6 and the iPhone 5 release.
Rumors say the iPhone 5 will launch in June or October of this year, but the rumors of June iPhone 5 release fall apart when we consider the timeline of an iPhone release. October seems like the more logical timeframe simply because Apple hasn’t talked about iOS 6.
Apple typically releases a beta version of iOS, the software that powers the iPhone and iPad, to developers months before it is released to the average consumer. Developers need time to create and fix apps for the new phone, and Apple needs to put the beta out to see how it functions on devices outside its testing labs.
Past iOS Release Dates
Last year Apple opened its World Wide Developers Conference on June 6, 2011. At the opening presentation the company unveiled iOS 5 and pushed the first of many betas of the OS out to developers. Over the course of the beta period Apple fixed some bugs in the platform and slowly enabled new features of the OS. Developers used the time to prepare their apps to work on the new OS, or to create new apps to take advantage of new APIs.
Four months and nine betas later, Apple released iOS 5 on October 12, 2011, and the iPhone 4S two days later on October 14, 2011. Four months seems like a long time, but the time period wasn’t much longer than other iOS releases.
The shortest period of time between the first beta and release of a full number version of iOS was iOS 4. Apple released the first beta of iOS 4 at a special event on April 3, 2010, and released it to the public with the iPhone 4 on June 21, 2010. That’s 80 days between the first beta and the public release.
Apple released iOS 5 to the public 128 days after its first beta, the public release of iOS 3 was 92 days after its first beta, and the public release of iOS 2 was 127 days after its first beta (it was also the first version of iOS to support the App Store).
App development is a long process, so developers need time with the new version of an OS, even in beta form, to make sure their apps will function correctly on the final version.
If Apple released the beta for iOS 6 today (April 23), and released the iPhone 5 on the last day of June (the 30th) developers would have 71 days to complete apps, and that includes the approval process. That’s not a whole lot of time.
iOS 6 at WWDC and iPhone 5 in October
Since Apple hasn’t announced a new special event since the new iPad launch, and WWDC is coming up on June 6, an iOS 6 announcement at the conference seems likely. This year could end up just like last year: Apple announces a new version of iOS at WWDC with some great new features, and those of us who aren’t developers have to wait a few months to use it.
There is a chance that Apple will release the iPhone 5 sooner, but there’s also supply issues for chips that might be in the device that could keep the release in October. Apple has historically announced new iPods in September, but last year it refreshed all mobile devices except the iPad (and iPod classic) in October. This year the company could do the same.
On the plus side, iOS 6 will come alongside the new iPhone, would could be “the mother of all upgrades.” Current rumors point to 4G LTE, a thinner display with better responsiveness, a “liquid metal” case, and possibly a larger display. We still don’t know everything about the device, but by looking at Apple’s history we can assume Apple won’t release it until the fall.